War on AIDS far from over

Today is International World AIDS day, a propitious opportunity to take stock, looking back and forward at the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Last year, exciting research linking treatment and prevention had just been completed: HIV patients receiving anti-retroviral treatment are 96 percent less likely to infect their partners. This groundbreaking news dissolved the Solomon’s choice between treating those with the disease and preventing new infections.

This year we can celebrate our many successes in the worldwide effort to control this disease. The recently published UNAIDS World AIDS Report highlights the following achievements:

 • In 25 countries of Africa, new HIV infection rates decreased more than 50 percent.

 • The number of people receiving antiretroviral therapy increased 63 percent in the last 24 months.

 • The new HIV infection rate in children declined.

 • Funding shifted: Low and middle income countries for the first time made more investment than the global giving for HIV control in 2011, assuming shared responsibility by increasing domestic investments.

In Washington state, more than 18,000 people have been diagnosed with HIV since the first case in 1982, with new infections remaining at about 550 per year. Over 5,000 have died as a result of HIV/AIDS in our state, but as is true anywhere in the world, with available, effective treatment, most Washingtonians with HIV disease survive long past their diagnosis, and HIV has become a chronic disease.

Locally, Thurston County and Pierce County activists are celebrating joining strengths, as UCAN (United Communities AIDS Network) merges with PCAF (Pierce County AIDS Foundation).

But just when the end is in sight, funding to fight HIV/AIDS is under threat. Globally there are still 2.5 million new infections and 1.7 million lives are claimed every year by this disease.

The global recession has caused a decline in donor funding to fight AIDS, even as new science and economic modeling have shown that we can end this disease. The United States must continue to be a leader against HIV/AIDS. Every dollar the U.S. gives to the multilateral Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria leverages other donor nations to give two dollars to fight the diseases of poverty.

Since its inception in 2002, the global fund has provided life-saving antiretroviral treatment for 3.6 million HIV-positive people, and has provided other key interventions such providing treatment to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV to 1.5 million.

The global fund has also detected and treated 9.3 million TB infections and provided over 270 million insecticide-treated bed nets to prevent malaria around the globe.

Funded by the US, and many other donor nations, the global fund supports the scale up of national strategies to fight diseases of poverty in 151 countries, and has proven to be the most effective and transparent funding mechanism for global health.

We urge you to call your congressional representative, new or old, and ask them to support higher funding for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria and help end the epidemic.

The above guest opinion was submitted by Olympia RESULTS; Pam Bergkamp; Nancy Curtiss; Shabina Hussain MPH; Marie Johantgen, MD; and Carolyn Prouty, DVM.